Monday, April 18, 2011

F-7 (MiG-21) in PAF Service

PAF F-7PG

'What is the strategy deployed against the Indian BVR fighter threat' asked an air enthusiast to a No.18 Squadron (F-7 OCU) pilot on a winter night at Mianwali. 

After explaining the basics of BVR combat the fighter pilot replied, 'Imagine an Indian Su-30MKI fires a R-77 Adder at us from extreme range......'. 

'Sorry to interrupt, but did you say, Su-30MKI. It is a great plane. Would you F-7 guys intercept it or evade it as it is no match for you.' said the air enthusiast.


'Well brother, Su-30MKI is a good plane but it is not invincible. It is built by humans, flown by humans and maintained by humans. It is our strong belief that if anything is created by humans it can be countered by humans. We study our adversary in great detail and have developed different strategies as per situation. Even if we are pitted against stealth fighters like F-22 we would put up a fight. If we have the guts to stand up against the Raptor, and have raised our bars of training at the level of the Raptor, the Indian Su-30 is comparatively much easier to handle."


With this confidence, i was convinced that F-7MP/PGs and PAF pilots do form a lethal combination for the enemy. Known as a modified MiG-21 in the western world and a downgraded MiG-21 by the Indians, the F-7MP currently forms the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force.

During the early 80s, PAF required a replacement for the Shengyang F-6 as the backbone of PAF. The requirement was a Mach 2 fighter, equipped with latest avionics to counter the threat posed by the following fighters:

MiG-21bis & MiG-21MF interceptors

MiG-23MF & MiG-23MLD interceptors
 
MiG-25R recee aircraft
 
MiG-23BN & MiG-27M ground attack aircraft
 
Su-22 & Su-25 ground attack aircraft
 
Jaguar ground attack aircraft

The fighters/bombers mentioned above were fielded by India and Russia, in large numbers, at a time when F-6(MiG-19) was the backbone of PAF. Though an excellent fighter in all aspects the only two disadvantages of the F-6 were its speed, and lack of an A/A radar. In a couple of engagements with MiG-23MLDs, the F-6s engaged at will but could not catch up with them due to their slow speed. Similarly in their engagements with Su-25s, their missiles usually missed, mostly due to lack of modern avionics and the counter-measures taken by the Su-25s.

PAF F-6 (MiG-19S)

Earlier in the late 70s, PAF was offered the following fighters in large numbers, which could equip five full strength squadrons including an OCU:

A-7E Corsair by USA

F-5E Tigers by USA
 
F-7M Airguard by China

Mirage F-1C by France

Initially PAF rejected both offers of A-7E and F-5E, as PAF felt that both offers were coming a decade late. Aircraft such as F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18 and Mirage-2000 were too much expensive and could not be purchased in large numbers. Similarly, the French Mirage-F1 was similar in performance with Mirage-III/Vs already in service with PAF, and were expensive. With PAF already purchasing 40 F-16A/B Block-15s from US, their were limited funds available which made the F-1C not feasable for PAF, thus PAF decided to evaluate the Chinese offer of F-7M Airguard


F-7M Airguard


F-7M was an improved J-7II variant for export with western avionics, with British GEC-Marconi as the prime contractor. Program initiated in 1978 and took six years to complete, after 10 rounds of negotiations. 

Western avionics included:

British Type 226 Skyranger radar: Ranging radar that weighs 41 kg with a range of 15 km.

British Type 956 HUDWAC: This HUD has a build-in weapon aiming computer, hence the name Head-Up Display And Weapon Aiming Computer.

British Type 50-048-02 digitized air data computer

British Type 2032 camera gun, which is linked to HUD with capability to interchange rolls of film while airborne. Each roll of film lasts more than 2 minutes.

American converter that is over 30% more efficient in comparison to the original Chinese converter.

American Type 0101-HRA/2 radar altimeter with range increased to 1.5 km in comparison to the original 0.6 km of the Chinese radar altimeter it had replaced.

British AD-3400 secured radio with range in excess of 400 km at 1.2 km altitude.

Other improvement includes domestic newly designed CW-1002 air data sensor developed in conjunction with the western avionics, and WP-7B/WP-7BM engine.

A totally different wing enabled the take-off and landing distance to be reduced by 20%, while increasing the aerodynamic performance in dogfights. F-7M was nearly 40% more effective than MiG-21 in terms of overall performance. It could use French R-550 Magic and PL-7 Air-to-air missiles.


Pakistan contribution

Although Pakistan did not purchase any F-7M in the early 80s, it did provide important support for F-7M program, including:

In the last quarter of 1982, test flights revealed that the radar was plagued by the problem of picking up ground clutters. China did not have any western radar assisted air-to-ground attack experience, and had no idea of conducting the necessary flight tests specifically designed for the western avionics to solve the problem. Pakistani Air Force provided pilots (including F-16 pilots) to China to perform these tests and helped in solving this problem.



Chinese 630th Institute responsible for F-7M program lacked the facility and experience to conduct live round weapon tests with advanced western avionics, and it also lacked the capability to conduct mocked air combat with western aircraft. Therefore from June, 1984 to September, 1984, two F-7Ms were sent to Pakistan to conduct such tests. Pakistan Air Force once again provided F-16 pilots to help to complete the tests, with the Chinese team in Pakistan led by Mr. Chen Baoqi (陈宝琦) of the Chinese Aviation Ministry and Mr Xie Anqing (谢安卿) of Chengdu Aircraft Co.

Dogfight between F-6 vs F-7M in DACT
DACT with F-16A and Mirage-IIIEP, VPA, VPA2/3 took place on frequent basis and PAF was impressed with the dogfighting skills. If the aircraft was to be upgraded according to PAF's standards it could be a welcome addition, as it was better than the original MiG-21 when compared to endurance, low & high speed handling as well as thrust-to-weight ratio.

Dogfight between Mirage-IIIEP vs F-7M in DACT




Birth of F-7MP

PAF initally purchased a squadron of 20 F-7Ms in 1986 and put them to some acid tests by the most finest pilots of the PAF. These aircraft were tested up to their optimum limits and were evaluated very minutely.

Early F-7P in 1988

After nearly two years use of the F-7M, Pakistani Air Force (PAF) returned the 20 F-7M aircraft to China in the late 1980s with recommendations for 24 upgrades, including replacing the original GEC-Marconi Type 226 Skyranger radar with the Italian FIAR Grifo-7 radar, and AIM-9 Sidewinder capability. 

F-7MP in 2005

The Italian radar weighs 55 kg, had a slot antenna planar array, and had a range greater than 50 km, while the British radar only weighs 42 kg, with a parabolic antenna, but only had range of 15 km. Both radars have a mean time between failure rate of 200 hours. F-7MP is the design specially tailored to Pakistani requirements.

F-7MPs over Ghazi Brotha in 2005

These twenty aircraft re-entered PAF in 1989, and were again tested extensively. This time with a powerful multimode radar and avionics, and the capability to fire AIM-9L/Magic-II missiles, these aircraft become a potent weapon system. Thus PAF was satisfied with these aircraft and ordered a large number of these fighters to replace the ageing F-6.

CCS F-7MP in 2007

A total of 60 more were built. And in a ceremony in 1990, No.20 Squadron was re-equipped with F-7MPs. PAF recieved 80 F-7MPs and 20 FT-7s, trainer version of the F-7MP and F-7P. Unlike most Chinese built JJ-7 trainers which lack radars, the FT-7P was armed with the same radar on the single seat version and thus fully capable for combat. These aircraft were termed better than the MiG-21bis, MiG-23MF and all the modern attack aircraft with Indian Airforce (except MiG-29 and Mirage-2000H) at that time i.e. 1990-2000.

F-7MP landing at Mushaf Airbase in 2006

PAF recieved more aircraft in 1994, and by 1995 it had completely taken the burden of the F-6s as the mainstay of the Pakistan Airforce. DACT with US F-14s and F-18s proved their worth.
F-7MP vs F-14A in DACT


First Upgrades In PAF Service

Starting with this model, F-7s in the Pakistani service began to be upgraded with the Italian FIAR Grifo-Mk-II radar license assembled by the ISO - 9002 certified Kamra avionics, Electronics and Radar Factory of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). 


In comparison to the Grifo-7, the new radar only weighs an extra 1 kg (56 kg total), but the sector of scan was increased to ±20 degrees from the original ±10 degrees of Grifo-7. The newer radar also had improved ECM and look-down and shoot-down capability, and can track 4 targets simultaneously while engage one of four target tracked.


F-7MG Flight Trials by Pakistan Air Force
By Air Cdre. (Retd) Kaiser Tufail

Gp Capt Kaiser Tufail and Wg Cdr Jamshed Khan were detailed to test fly the F-7MG (later known as F-7PG in PAF service) in July 1997. A total of 12 sorties were planned in which the complete flight regime was to be explored, with particular focus on the improvements in performance of the already in-service F-7P. A similar number of sorties were to be flown after a few months, when the GEC-Marconi Super Skyranger was ready.

Soon after arrival in Chengdu, the wet tropical weather of Southern China made it quite obvious that the flight trials would take longer than expected. Two other unusual challenges were the language barrier and the issue of finding enough airspace over non-populated areas. Chengdu is one of China’s largest metropolitan centres and is located in Sichuan Province, which happens to have the country’s densest population per acre. In such environments, supersonic flights as well as low-level max-Q trials left no room for area violation in the narrow sliver that had been allocated for flight trials. The pilots had also been told that their departure back home could be delayed in case the adjacent Chengdu International Airport were ever to lodge an air violation. The hint was well registered!

PAF’s evaluation was the first by a prospective foreign customer, although the aircraft had accumulated almost 10,000 hours in the PLAAF since its induction in late 1995.

Major Improvements

The F-7MG airframe has essentially the same F-7P fuselage, inner wing portion, tail plane and fin. The outer wing section incorporates the major change, with a reduced 42° sweep and automatic manoeuvring flaps. The F-7MG is powered with an improved and more powerful WP-13 engine, which is also operational on the F-7III (Chinese version of the MiG-21MF). Additionally, cockpit layout, avionics and several ancillary systems have been changed, in line with modern trends. The important systems that remain unchanged (compared to the F-7P) are the fuel system, weapons payload capacity and internal guns.

Double Delta Wings

Like the Su-15, the Draken J-35, as well as the more modern X-31 post-stall manoeuvring demonstrator, the F-7MG has a double-delta wing planform, which offers an excellent solution to a slender delta’s inherent low aspect ratio problem. The aspect ratio of conventional deltas is, at best, of the order of about 2.4, with the low end notched up, surprisingly, by India’s LCA; at 1.75 it stands behind the bat-winged double-delta Saab Draken, whose very low aspect ratio of 1.8 was considered to be a convenient remedy to the transonic CP shift, albeit at the expense of overall aerodynamic efficiency.

Wingtip stalling has never been an issue on the F-7P, but the double delta wing brings with it an added bonus in this respect. The strong vortex of the inner wing re-energises the boundary layer of the outer wing, preventing span-wise flow towards the tips. This allows even more-carefree manoeuvring at ultra-low speeds.

Testing the Wings

On the first take-off, it was evident that the aircraft was impatient to get off the ground and had to be held down to prevent it getting airborne prematurely. Compared to the F-7P’s take-off speed of 310 kph, the MG lifted off at 280 kph with ease and the advertised 35% improvement in take-off distance was on the mark. The sight of the auto-manoeuvring flaps at work reminded the pilots of the F-16’s computer-controlled leading edge devices. Packaging the servo motors and actuators within the thin leading edge without the tell-tale bulges has certainly been a marvel of engineering at Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC).

The feel of the aircraft was smooth in all domains, none more so than in transonic flight. As expected, CP shift was minimal and both the test pilots were unanimous about the decrease in stick forces. Transonic being an important combat flight regime, this is a welcome improvement.

A good measure of a wing’s lifting efficiency is at high alpha, a regime that the PAF pilots have learnt to perform in almost as an art form. What better than to pace the MG through a slow speed loop? Normally, a safe entry speed for a loop would be between 800-900 kph (at 15,000 AMSL) on the F-7P. In the absence of any guidelines on a slower version of the manoeuvre, it was decided to try 700 kph at first. The MG went through smoothly without any hint of judder or slip at the top. With full faith in the leading edge flaps, the next loop was performed at 600 kph. Again, the same results were achieved and the aircraft went through a perfect loop without any jitter or judder. At lower altitudes it might do even slower and better, but airspace limitations at Chengdu did not permit low level aerobatics.

Several flights followed the first check of the aircraft’s aerodynamic efficiency. It was a most pleasant surprise to note that the turn rates were nearer to the F-16 at medium to high altitudes and, were exactly as advertised. A 33% improvement over the F-7P at 5,000’ AMSL, 50% at 10,000’ and 66% at 20,000 would certainly call for an end to the “supersonic sports plane” sobriquet that dogged its forerunners.

The results of the flight trials were so encouraging that the test pilots were tempted to simulate a flamed-out engine landing pattern, a not very ‘done’ thing on delta-winged fighters. While the Chinese manuals suggested a rectangular pattern that can put one’s judgement and nerves to test, the standard overhead spiral pattern was tried out initially from a high-key height of 15,000’ AGL. With engine idling and speed brakes out to simulate a dead engine, the aircraft glided much like the F-16, so after a few approaches, the high key height was lowered to12,000’ AGL. The sink rate was well under control and, in fact was so well manageable that all later sorties were terminated through practice dead-engine approaches. At 1:8.5, the glide ratio compares favourably with some of the modern Western fighters.

Landings on the F-7MG could be made at 270 kph, compared to about 290 kph on the F-7P. The test pilots felt that the speed could be lowered further, were it not for the length of the gear struts, which are not long enough to allow a higher nose attitude. Hydraulic brakes, though still hand-held (like those on a bicycle handle-bar), were very effective and, the unlimited braking facility was a welcome improvement over the bled-off pneumatics of the F-7P.

New Engine

The WP-13 engine of the F-7MG produces 1,200 lbs of more thrust than the F-7P’s WP-7, giving it a thrust-to-weight ratio of about .9 compared to .8 of the latter in clean take-off configuration. A 50% improvement in spool-up time is a welcome feature, particularly on final approach and landing where a sudden gust of wind has resulted in many a tail scrape on the F-7P. Go-arounds are also prompt and a bad landing is actually a thing of the past on the MG. Use of titanium alloys in compressor blades and an increased TBO are indicators of improvements in Chinese jet-engine technology.

The thrust increase was evidenced by a 25% improvement in acceleration time from 500 kph to 1100 kph and an equally impressive time-to-climb to 36,000’ AMSL. All improvements were verified and were found to be as advertised or even better. Even more remarkable was the fact that these trials took place in hot and humid weather, well outside the 15°C, 1013 hP environments in which the specifications are usually engineered.

Miscellaneous Systems

The F-7MG has several modern avionics upgrades. These include a Stores Management System, which is essentially a useful cockpit-pilot interface to help establish the status of stores including configuration, fusing and weapon codes etc. A voice warning system, colour video recorder, elaborate cockpit lighting and a more precise and jitter–free AOA probe are nice-to-have improvements. The colour EFIS includes two displays, one for the attitude and the other for the heading and navigation sub-systems like ADF, VOR, TACAN, ILS etc.

The PAF pilots used to advanced cockpits like the F-16 were quick to point out several ergonomic improvements and had detailed discussions with CAC design bureau. Switchology changes and relocation of several instruments led to a much improved cockpit; it has been suggested in a lighter vein that a nomenclature change to F-7PG might just be in order. (‘G’ incidentally stands for ‘gai’, meaning ‘improved’ in Chinese.)

Radar

The F-7MG was originally designed to have the GEC-Marconi Super Skyranger. At the time of initial PAF trials the radar was not ready. Trials were held again several months later after the prototype radar was installed. In the event the radar did not come up to PAF specifications and GEC-Marconi was not able to surmount the problems associated with the small nose cone, including antenna size and equipment air-conditioning which was insufficient.

The PAF eventually retrofitted their F-7Ps and F-7PGs with the FIAR Grifo-7. To say that miniaturisation technology is at its best in this marvellous Italian radar would be an understatement. An excellent pulse Doppler radar with respectable ranges and a medium order azimuth and elevation scan, the system is married to the all-aspect AIM-9L Sidewinder, making it a lethal combination.

FT-7PG

CAC did not design a double-delta version of the F-7MG. On PAF’s request, the existing FT-7P cockpit was redesigned on lines of the PG to ensure standardisation and the resultant dual seater was re-designated FT-7PG.

Analysis

The F-7MG has considerably improved subsonic and transonic flight performance. Coupled with excellent turning capability and acceleration, the combat potential is enhanced tremendously. The Grifo-7/AIM-9L combination on board PAF’s F-7PG brings the aircraft much closer to the F-16 in close combat capabilities and the PAF must be credited with extracting the maximum from an innovatively redesigned low-cost fighter. 



Enter the F-7PG

An improved variant of the F-7II, developed in 1987 as a replacement for the J-7II/F-7B was developed by the name, J-7E. A new double-delta wing, WP-13F turbojet engine, British GEC-Marconi Super Skyranger radar, increased internal fuel capacity, and improved performance. It is 45% more maneuverable than the J/F-7M, while the take-off and landing distance is reduced to 600 meters, in comparison to the 1,000 meter take-off distance and 900 meter landing distance of earlier versions of the F-7. J-7E is the first of the J-7 family to incorporate HOTAS, which has since become standard on the later versions. This version is also the first of J-7 series to be later upgraded with helmet mounted sights (HMS).


A J-7E armed with GEC-Marconi Super Skyranger radar with planar slotted array and Martin-Baker ejection seat made for potential customers' evaluation was evaluated by PAF. Though highly impressed PAF suggested some changes before it could give any orders.

F-7PG had the single piece windshield replacing the 3-piece windshield of the J-7MG. It was an alternative to J-7MG, similar to the J-7MG except with Italian Grifo-MG radar, which further increased the sector of scan to +/- 30 degrees from the +/- 20 degrees of Grifo-Mk-II on F-7P.

Pakistan ordered a total of 80 in two batches, with 50 and 30 respectively in each. According to the Pakistan Air Force, the performance at high altitude of the F-7PG has increased more than 83% in comparison to the F-7P/MP.

FT-7 trainer variant of the F-7PG for the Pakistani Air Force, also followed. The rear seat is 0.5 metre higher than the front seat, so the periscope is eliminated. These aircraft were also equipped with Grifo-MG radars.



Second Upgrades In PAF Service & BVR Capability

The Grifo-MG radar has better ECCM, look-down and shoot-down capabilities than its predecessor Grifo-Mk-II, while the weight remained the same. The number of targets can be tracked simultaneously is increased from the original 4 of the Grifo-Mk-II to a total of 8 of the Grifo-MG. Along with the F-7PGs, all PAF's F-7MPs were re-equipped with this radar in 2000-01. 


Just like the earlier Italian FIAR Grifo-Mk-II radar on F-7MP/P, the Italian FIAR Grifo-MG radar of F-7PG will be assembled under license by the ISO - 9002 certified Kamra avionics, Electronics and Radar Factory of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC).


PAF operated a force of 300 F-7MP/PG at optimum strength in 2008 (CATIC provides PAF with attrition replacements which would remain effective by 2010, when PAF would start replacing the aircraft, with JF-17 Thunders).

F-7 (MiG-21) in Combat

Since 1990 till to-date, their were three occasions, when their was the danger of a full scale military conflict between Pakistan & India, which are:

OPERATION BEDAAR (98)
OPERATION KARGIL (99)
OPERATION SENTINEL (02)
PAKISTAN INDIA STANDOFF (08)

Apart from these operations, PAF F-7 pilots were trained to gain 'Air Superiority' against any armed conflict with India and Israel. The F-7Ps regularly had to face F-16A/Bs, Mirage-IIIEPs and Mirage-VPA2/3 in air-to-air combat, whereas occasionaly faced F-14s, F-15Cs, FA-18s, Mirage-2000s, MiG-29s and Su-27s in mock excercises, operated by friendly airforces. Strategies were devised, extensively practiced and regularly updated against each aircraft which were thought to challenge the F-7Ps in real time conflict.

The first occassion, when an F-7P was scrambled was in May 1997. Two F-7Ps were scrambled to intercept an Indian MiG-25R Foxbat. Though other PAF aircraft were also scrambled, the Indian aircraft was quick to exit as it was flying over the border and did'nt penetrated deep inside the Pakistani Airspace.

OPERATION BEDAAR (98)

PAF was hit by a deadly string of air accidents in 1997, which mostly included F-6s and F-7MPs. All the F-7MP fleet was grounded and the fault was rectified. Until then the squadrons operating F-7s were re-equipped with reserve F-6s.

By May 1998, three squadrons were cleared to fly the F-7MPs again. This included No.14, No. 15 and No. 20 Squadrons.


After the Indian nuclear tests of 13 May 1998, Pakistan felt that there was a strong possibility of a joint Indo-Israeli strike against Pakistan's nuclear installations. The PAF had an essential role to play in defending Pakistan's strategic installations and airspace to thwart any such plan.

As soon as the decision to conduct the nuclear tests had been taken, the PAF was ordered to assume air defence duties over Chagai and the strategic nuclear installations of Pakistan, including Kahuta, Nilore, Fatehjung, Chashma, Khushab and Karachi.

No. 14 MR Squadron “The Tail Choppers”, equipped with F-7P aircraft and based at PAF Sargodha, commanded by Wg. Cdr. M. Jamshaid Khan, was deployed at PAF Base Chaklala for the point defence of KRL, Kahuta, PINSTECH, Nilore, NDC, and Fatehjung.

No. 15 Squadron "Cobras", equipped with F-7P aircraft was deployed in detachments along Peshawar, Risalpur and Kamra and performed CAP missions defending these bases.

During May 1998, Dalbandin air field became the centre of activity for all personnel, military and civilian, flying to and from the nuclear tests sites to the rest of the country.

The nuclear devices were themselves flown in semi-knocked down (SKD) sub-assembly form on two flights of PAF C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft from PAF Chaklala in northern Punjab to Dalbandin airfield, escorted even within Pakistani airspace by four PAF F-16As armed with air-to-air missiles. At the same time, PAF F-7P air defence fighters, also armed with air-to-air missiles, were on CAP guarding the aerial frontiers of Pakistan against intruders.



Both the nuclear devices (the bomb mechanism, the HMX explosive shields and casing) and the fissile material (the highly enriched uranium components) were divided into separate consignments and flown on separate flights of the Hercules. The PAEC did not want to put all its nuclear eggs in one basket in case something adverse was to happen to the aircraft. The security of the devices and the fissile material was so strict that that PAF F-16 escort pilots had been secretly given standing orders that in the unlikely event of the C-130 being hijacked or flown outside of Pakistani airspace, they were to shoot down the aircraft before it left Pakistan’s airspace. The F-16s were ordered to escort the C-130s to the Dalbandin airfield in Balochistan with their radio communications equipment turned off so that no orders, in the interim, could be conveyed to them to act otherwise. They were also ordered to ignore any orders to the contrary that got through to them during the duration of the flight even if such orders seemingly originated from Air Headquarters.

On 30 May 1998, when Pakistan sixth nuclear device shook the ground in the Kharan Desert, Operation Bedaar '98 had accomplished its mission - that of deterring any misadventure by either India or Israel to strike at Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure.



OPERATION KARGIL (99)

By the end of 98, the F-7P fleet reached the mark of 100% operational status, thus relieveing most of the F-6 units. It was when out of 'no where' the Kargil War started. PAF CAS was quite angry with the Army Chief that he has not taken the Airforce and Navy Chief in confidence before starting the conflict.

However, PAF High Command decided that since their is the danger of any retaliatory strikes by IAF inside Pakistan, the whole airforce was brought to the status of 'Red Alert'.

F-16 Fighting Falcons shifted into the Skardu Forward Operational Base. These F-16s had undergone Falcon Upgrades, thanks to the co’operation of Egypt and Turkey, and were prepared to take on the IAF fighters and transport aircraft thus foiling Indian attempts to drop paratroopers behind enemy lines.


A-5s from Peshawar also joined the Vipers. Rest of the Pakistan Airforce was deployed as the same manner as it was in Operation Bedaar ’98, with the F-7Ps taking the duties from the F-6, relegating the F-6 to low level defence of VP/VAs.


On 6th June 1999, a press release from PAF stated to the International Media:

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has been put on 'red alert' due to the increasingly tense situation between Pakistan and India in the disputed territory of Jammu & Kashmir.

The PAF is now in a state of combat readiness at all times and is ready to meet any eventuality that may arise in the coming days. "We are ready for any eventuality" said a PAF officer whose name has been withheld. "Insha'Allah, we will not disappoint the nation".

PAF air defence fighters, mainly F-7MPs, are maintaining 24 hour 'round-the-clock' Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) on the whole international border between Pakistan and India as well as on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir. The PAF is also conducting CAPs along its coast on the Arabian Sea.

The PAF has the capability to put 200 combat aircraft in the air within a span of 5 minutes of the orders coming in to scramble", remarked a PAF officer.

The PAF's F-7MP air defence fighters are standing on the operational readiness platform (ORP) ramps of the runways in over 30 air fields of Pakistan with pilots sitting inside the cockpits ready to scramble within seconds.

In some of the PAF's forward operational bases (FOBs), PAF F-7MP air defence fighters are on 'hot scramble alert' i.e. stationed at the end of the runways, with pilots inside the cockpits and the aircraft engines running.

"The PAF is in a defensive posture but we have the capability to transform this defensive posture into an offensive one if the enemy dares to violate Pakistan's territory and airspace.", the PAF officer stated. The PAF has armed all its operational combat aircraft with armaments and equipment for their respective roles. "We do not think the Indians are foolish enough to attack Pakistan, but if they are then they will find us ready", said the PAF officer.

He did not rule out the use of the Pakistan Air Force if the Indian Army crossed the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir. "We are watching every move of theirs, our reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft are watching every move they make, if they cross the LoC they will pay a heavy price for such a misadventure".

He said it will be up to the Pakistan Army to call for air support and air strikes. "This will be the Army's decision", he said.

Asked to comment on the reports that IAF Mirage 2000s were conducting jamming operations against Pakistani radar, the PAF officer remarked "We have better jamming equipment than the Mirage 2000s which they are using. We are using electronic countermeasures to spoil their jamming attempts and we are also jamming their aircraft in return".

He said "our aircraft are conducting counter-jamming as well as jamming of IAF and Indian Army radar in Jammu & Kashmir and we have other high technology specialized aircraft for jamming, counter-jamming, airborne early warning and other electronic intelligence roles which will be activated if the need arises".

He declined to comment on unconfirmed reports that a Saudi AWACS and unknown numbers of Saudi F-15s, UAE Mirage 2000s and Chinese F-7s flown by Pakistan Air Force pilots had arrived in Pakistan. "These are rumours", he added. "Whatever we have, the enemy will find out if they attack us".

In what was a classic pre-dawn interception, air defence interceptors of the Pakistan Air Force, comprising of two PAF F-7MP fighter jets, intercepted and engaged intruding Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets which crossed the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir and violated Pakistan's airspace by several kilometres. The IAF fighters were believed to be two MiG-27ML ground-attack aircraft and two Mirage 2000H fighters providng top cover. The event took place in the early hours of Thursday, 8 July 1999, at approximately 0230 hours PST.

According to sources, PAF F-7MP fighters were supported by two F-16 Fighting Falcons providing back-up which conducted electronic jamming of the intruder IAF 'bandits'. The F-16s were scrambled whereas the F-7MPs were already on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) duty when the incursion occurred. 

The PAF F-7MP air defence interceptors were immediately vectored by GCI towards the intruding 'bandits' within seconds of their crossing into Pakistan airspace. The PAF fighters intercepted the Indian fighters and 'locked' on them with their missiles. In fighter terms, this is an invitation for a dogfight. However, the IAF fighters refused to engage in return and instead fled straight back into the airspace of Indian-held Kashmir in what PAF pilots perceived was sheer panic. "It was not a very orderly or dignified exit", remarked a PAF officer.

According to PAF sources, even the Dynamic Launch Zone (DLZ) perimetres had been met for launching of the air-to-air missiles which means that the PAF pilots had gotten the AAM tone indicating the bandits were well within shoot-down range of the PAF fighters. A missile tone is achieved when the missile's infrared heat-seeker or its radar has picked up the hostile aircraft. "It looks as if we gave them a fright", says a PAF officer, "Their RWR signal would have been blasting off in the cockpits as our interceptors tracked them". If the missiles were short-range heat-seeking missiles, then this would imply that the distance between the PAF and the IAF fighters was less than 10 kilometres - "Too close for comfort", as the PAF officer remarked.

PAF fighters did not shoot down the Indian fighters even though they were within range of the air-to-air missiles of the PAF fighters. The Indian fighters were perilously close to the Line of Control and their wreckage may have fallen inside Indian-held Kashmir territory which, going by their track record, would have given the Indian authorities the opportunity to blame the PAF for the intrusion.

According to the PAF Rules of Engagement (ROE), three conditions have to be met in peacetime before an enemy aircraft can be shot down: (i) the enemy aircraft must violate Pakistan's airspace; (ii) it must be a combat aircraft and (iii) its wreckage must fall inside Pakistani territory. 'Peacetime' in the context of India and Pakistan means when no war has been declared.

In this instance, the third criterion may not have been met as the IAF fighters were too close to the LoC and their wreckage may have fallen on either side of the LoC.

"All the intruder Indian fighters fled when our our air defence fighters locked on them", said a PAF officer.


A second intrusion occured seven and a half hours later, at approximately 10:00 a.m. (1000 hours) PST, when two IAF fighter jets violated Pakistan's airspace in the Mushkoh-Olding sector in Jammu & Kashmir. Two F-7MPs were immediately scrambled from a forward PAF air base to intercept the two intruders. However, the IAF MiG-21BiS, sensing the PAF fighters fast approaching them, turned back and fled into Indian-held Kashmir before the PAF interceptors could get a missile lock-on them. 

In both cases, the IAF intruders had taken off from Srinagar air base, according to PAF GCI controllers.

The movie of the HUD was examined by external experts, and is still shown in the CCS. The positioning of aircraft in a perfect by the GCI was commendable, and the way IAF fighters, identified as MiG-27ML exited the scene was morale booster for every PAF pilot who saw that engagement.
 

PAF was satisfied on the job its pilots had done i.e. keep IAF out of Pakistan Airspace. Indian media in their over enthusiasm started to target PAF, which angered the PAF CAS. According to the Indian media, IAF Mirages and MiG-29s usually locked on PAF F-16s with BVR missiles, due to which the F-16s fled, with their pilots shaken off and some of them resigning from the PAF.

The PAF CAS invited all the international millitary attaches and observers which were in Pakistan, and responded to this news by showing all the F-16 pilots in front of the them and the media. None of them had retired, and neither of them was low on morale. Infact they had something to show to the attaches and observers, the HUD movie of two instances when Indian Aircraft actually tried to lock PAF F-16s.

According to the first HUD movie, and other evidences (Pilot-GCI conversation, Enemy Radar Intercepts):

IAF Mirage-2000 aircraft attempted a lock-on at a PAF F-16A. The PAF F-16 immediately dropped down from 20,000 ft to hardly 5000 ft over the terrain and deployed a cloud of chaff. His A/A radar went in standby mode. The Mirage pilot thought that the F-16 had ran away when the F-16 tried to close in on him using the cover of the mountains and valleys. The F-16 closed in on the Mirage but at 15 nm distance the Mirage pilot again tracked the Viper closing in fast. Equipped with only two Magic-2s, the Mirage pilot banked sharply increasing the range to 20 nm and disengaged with full afterburners.


According to the second HUD movie, and other concrete evidences (Pilot-GCI conversation, Enemy Radar Intercepts):

Armed with four AA-10 and two Magic-2 [or probably AA-11] missiles, Gaurav Chibber a MiG-29 pilot acquired a lock on at two PAF F-16As orbiting over Skardu. The F-16s at once repeated their drill of engine to idle thrust, deploying a cloud of chaff and dropping down from 20,000ft to 5000ft AGL with AA Radar on standby mode. Gaurav Chibber had a wry smile on his face under his helmet when he loosed the lock-on. Angry with the avionics Gaurav again searched for the Vipers when he felt that the avionics of his aircraft had jammed. Gaurav tried all methods and probably had his A/A Radar functional again when he saw no sign of any aircraft in his radar. He felt something suspicious and decided to move out. As he started his way back to the base he saw two tracks appearing suddenly on his A/A Radar from behind. He quickly took evasive action but was relieved that he is well inside his territory and the tracks turned back in Pakistan. As fate would have it, F/L Gaurav Chibber met his end when the same Mig-29, he was flying in the above mission, crashed in Bilaspur distric of Himachal Pardesh on August 6, 1999. 



OPERATION SENTINEL (02)

The PAF took in its stride the 10 Month War Alert with India during 2002 when New Delhi unsuccesfully attempted a coerction strategy against Pakistan through its "Operation Parakram".

IAF threatened Pakistan that it would use Mirage-2000, Jaguars, MiG-27s, MiG-29s and MiG-21s against specified targets inside Pakistan airspace [Azad Kashmir]. PAF CAS ACM Mushaf Ali Mir challenged the Indian Airforce to just try and enter our airspace.


To counter the threat posed by India's forward deployed forces and combat aircraft, all PAF support units, wings, bases, and commands of the PAF easily moved into "Operation Sentinel" of their own, assuming holding and improving upon their assigned readiness states throughout the year.

On 16 Oct 2002 India decided to back down. Thus PAF defenders once again responded swiftly and proved its mettle again, this time against heavy odds.

Once again the primary weapon fielded by PAF was its fleet of F-7MP/PGs. As promised in 1999, the whole PAF was in the air within 5 minutes when an enemy raid was detected near the border indicating a pre-emptive strike. 


It was 1500 hours PST, and the date was 19th December 2001. The people in Rawalpindi and Islamabad were on their routine when the air was filled with a majestic noise. As the people looked up they saw four F-7MPs flying overhead in battle formation. This noise continued for an hour as the F-7MPs landed on Chaklala AFB. Anti aircraft guns were also seen on the surroundings while SAMs were mobilized. Soon afterwards, Rawalpindi and Islamabad came under 24 hour CAP by the F-7s and was witnessed by the public.


During the first month of Operation Sentinel, at leat 20 times the F-7MPs from Chaklala were scrambled and on a few occasions people could clearly see the underbelly drop tank, two AIM-9L Sidewinders and two missles of unknown type [the missle was of white colour and was larger then the sidewinder].

Eqipped with latest powerful radar and the newly integrated night vision, the F-7s were ready to take out any IAF aircraft which even dared to cross the border within a couple of minutes notice.

The F-7MP/PGs conducted day/night CAP sorties throughout Operation Sentinel, and were occasionally scrambled if anything IAF aircraft neared the border. They also conducted VIDs on every aircraft which had to come from the East and Southern directions of Pakistan.


Operation Sentinel was a victory for PAF, as it was for their timely action that IAF couldn't perform any misadventure. During a couple of times, when IAF aircraft violated Pakistan airspace, they were downed/damaged by PAF air defences.

All the credit goes to every unit of PAF, especially F-16 and F-7 units, which performed up to their optimum limit and once again made the PAF, 'Pride of their nation'.


PAKISTAN INDIA MILITARY STANDOFF (08)

The Mumbai attacks were more than ten coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India's largest city, by terrorists. The attacks, which drew widespread condemnation across the world, began on 26 November 2008 and lasted until 29 November, killing at least 173 people and wounding at least 308. Though India accuses Pakistan in these attacks the reality is another way round.

India was already cornering Pakistan and was waiting for a time in which it could slash Pakistan. Indian secret services RAW along with the Israeli secret service MOSSAD prepared a malicious plan. RAW recruited some Pakistanis by offering them incentives which would benefit them. After that they trained them and transported them to India, with full cooperation with the Indian Armed Forces. Thus when the Mumbai Attacks were still being carried out, the Indian Prime Minister immediately blamed Pakistan for this incident. In short Mumbai Attack originated from an Indian mind and was carried out and funded by the Indians themselves. The way the Indians behaved with the Pakistanis in India at that time is an ample proof of this.

After the Mumbai Attacks, the Indian Government supported by Indian Media slashed a campaign against Pakistan, to let the world believe that Pakistani Government and Military is behind the Mumbai Attacks. At this stage, the war gurus and stats were in favour of surgical strikes conducted by IAF, with ex-IAF personnel and Indian politicians insisting in front of the international media for the IAF aircraft to strike targets inside Pakistan and demoralize the Pakistani public. Thus Pranab Mukherjee set a deadline that until or unless Pakistan Government will not accept these attacks they will have to face the wrath of IAF.



It was when IAF decided to carry out to cross the border. Indian fighter planes violated Pakistan’s air space by entering two places in Kashmir and Lahore. PAF F-16s and Mirage ROSE-I which were already on alert quickly came into action and forced the IAF’s fighter jets to leave Pakistan’s air space. This act of valour was followed by a foolish comment coming from our top leadership of the government, which termed this intrusion as a navigational error and technical mistake. Since IAF officially denied this incident, it was absurd to provide explanations on their behalf. Whatever the reason was behind those statements, our armed forces took an aggressive posture. Pakistan Army started taking their defensive positions on the border while the Airforce moved in its highest state of alert.



In response to the ‘deadline’ set by India and the threats from Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee, Pakistan had gone on a diplomatic counter-offensive, briefing world powers and countries in the region on the deteriorating relations with India and the steps taken by it to address Indian concerns.


Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir met ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, Britain, China, France and Russia. He also met ambassadors of Italy, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey soon after returning from France where he had gone for annual bilateral consultations.


However, his most crucial meeting was with Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal at the Foreign Office when he said that India should defuse tension. Mr Pal was accompanied by his deputy Manpreet Vohra. The Indian side was categorically told that any ‘surgical strikes’ would be considered a declaration of war. India was urged to respond to Pakistan’s proposal for joint investigation into the Mumbai attacks.


The Indian diplomats looked somber when they came out of the meeting. As things stand, the possibility of war was averted in which was seen as a massive diplomatic victory for Pakistan. This of course does not mean that Pakistan should let their guard down. In addition to the diplomatic counter-offensive, it was Pakistan Army’s seriousness that put India on the backfoot.


Once the realization set in that any further attempts to enter Pakistan Airspace will be punished severely by the PAF, the Indians had gone to plan B, with Mullen asking for a guarantee that PAF will not respond to Indian surgical strikes.


At this stage Adm. Mike Mullen asked Pakistan for a guarantee that PAF will not respond to Indian surgical strikes. Pakistan Army’s CAS General Kayani responded with showing Mullen a photograph of an IAF Mirage-2000 locked by PAF’s F-16 taken on December 13. ‘Next time, we’ll bring it down’, Mullen was told. 



To make sure the message was loud and clear, PAF jets started patrolling the skies in hot mode and a red-alert was issued throughout the country.

During this period PAF flew day night CAPs over vital points and areas. These sorties boosted the morale of the public which was hit hard by the terrorist attacks and inflation. The spirit of 1965 was felt when PAF jets roared above the public. These sorties demoralized the IAF which expected a walk in the park, when it planned for the strikes in Pakistan airspace. IAF CAS on a couple of occasions mentioned that he is quite disturbed with PAF aircraft flowing close to the border in battle formations giving an aggressive posture. The Indian war rhetoric failed to impress Pakistan. Instead, the focus shifted to Indian intelligence agencies’ failure to put together credible evidence implicating Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks.



Thus after February 2009, India decided to end the conflict and switched back to the old routine of blaming Pakistan using their media.

On 20th February 2009, F-7MPs from Chaklala were seen returning to their peacetime positions indicating an end to the military standoff. 

Exercise Iron Falcon 2009

Exercise Iron Falcon are military aerial training exercises at United Arab Emirates Air Warfare Center UAEAWC. Various squadrons from various US Air Forces Bases and Coalition Forces participated in these exercises at various times.


USAF F-22 Raptors made their first appearance in the Middle East at the UAEAWC from November until December 10th. Six Raptors and their support unit from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia performed bilateral training their coalitions partners.

The exercise was designed to bring together Gulf Cooperation Council nations and other countries to strengthen military-to-military relationships, promote regional security, improve combined tactical air operations, and enhance interoperability of forces, equipment and procedures.

During the same period, F-22s participated in bilateral training opportunities with coalition partners. Special feature of this excercise was the participation of PAF F-7PGs along with RJAF F-16A and UAEF F-16E Block-60 and Mirage-2000. PAF F-7PG pilot got the opportunity to practice extensively against the Raptors as well as the Block-60 Vipers.

It was the morale of the PAF pilots, i have described at the start of this article, that they opt to face the Raptor in F-7PG. Though outclassed by the Raptors, they gained alot of appreciation by the Raptor pilots. This describes the morale and the guts of PAF pilots which primarily train to counter the threat posed by Su-30MKI (termed invincible by the Indians).








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